The reduction in price for a permit to climb the highest mountain in the world isn't an insubstantial one. The price for a single climber has gone down from $25,000 to $11,000. But, the existing discounts for group expeditions are also going away, which means that Nepal is likely to pull in more cash under the new price structure.
As the article I linked to above notes, under the old price structure, seven climbers would pay a total of $70,000 to share a climbing permit. But with the new pricing, the total cost would be $77,000, with a flat fee for each climber, and no discounts. On top of that fee increase, Nepal will also start charging a fee for Nepalese climbers for the first time. That fee will be $750.
It is difficult to say just yet how this change in fee structure will impact the climbing scene. For the traditional guiding companies, it means a slight increase in fees for their clients, but it is unlikely to change much beyond that. Considering many climbers pay in excess of $65,000 for their expeditions, another $1000 isn't going to be a deal breaker. But the reduced fees could also result in more smaller climbing groups on the mountain, which could in turn lead to more traffic jams, over crowding and environmental damage. The fear is that there could be more unprepared climbers, without proper experience, on the South Side, which could be bad news all around.
The move is a bit surprising to me, considering it wasn't all that long ago that the Nepalese government was talking about how they wanted to make Everest safer and cleaner. That doesn't typically mean potentially adding more climbers to the mountain. On the other hand, it is understandable that the country wants to find more ways to leverage its natural resources to make more cash. Obviously there are no easy answers for a developing nation, but the potential increase to the dangers on Everest seems troubling.
With the climbing season set to begin in about six weeks, this announcement isn't likely to have a major impact on this season. But the potential for problems in the future continues to loom. We'll just have to wait to see if the number of climbers on the mountain continues to grow in the years ahead, and if it has an impact on safety there.